Middle Dodd, Red Screes, High Hartsop Dodd & Little Hart Crag

Walk 5's northern fells viewed from Hartsop. Middle Dodd & Red Screes (behind) to the left, High Hartsop Dodd to the right with Little Hart Crag behind.

Date completed: 9th September 2009 [or 09/09/09, if you prefer]

Fells climbed: Red Screes (2541′, no. 14), Middle Dodd (2106′, no. 15), Little Hart Crag (2091′, no. 16), High Hartsop Dodd (1702′, no. 17), High Pike (2155′, no. 18), Low Pike (1657′, no. 19)

Distance: 11.7 miles

Total ascent: 3957 feet

Weather conditions: Excellent; warm sunshine, particularly in the afternoon

Start and end point: Ambleside bus station (regular bus services to Windermere rail station)

Pub at end: The White Lion, Ambleside. Cheap, decent beer – we are talking only just over a pound a pint – but I should here point something out about this walk. There are two reasons I did not have a great time on this walk, particularly in the afternoon. First, I got quite badly dehydrated – more of that in the diary section below. Second, and relevant to the composition of this site, I either left my camera or had it stolen out of my bag while recovering from my tribulations in the aforementioned White Lion. The material loss of this object was irritation enough but the bigger annoyance was the loss of all the photos taken on this walk. I will fill in the missing pictures of the fells by taking some at a distance on other walks, but unless I revisit all the summits again there won’t be any other shots.

Route card: Follow this link to download a route card for this walk, containing summary information, waypoints, an elevation profile and an overview map. Route card for walk 5: Circuit of Scandale

Route: I started off up the Kirkstone Road from Ambleside and took the second significant path to the left (the first will just loop you back round to the town). This then proceeded in a very obvious and rather mundane fashion up to the top of Red Screes (though the trudge was eventually worth it). Middle Dodd is then the small peaked subsidiary summit to the north.

From Middle Dodd I decided I did not feel like climbing almost to the top of Red Screes again before descending anyway to Scandale Pass, so tried to traverse diagonally across the face of the larger fell. This was not really a good idea; the going was tough among the grass and remember, ground in the Lakes is never as smooth when you’re negotiating it as it looks even from a dozen yards away. And in any case, even when on the path from Red Screes to Scandale Pass, that was no better: an unpleasant descent on a decaying path.

From the top of Scandale, at NY 388095 (what’s this?), I rounded Little Hart Crag to the left, then from its summit headed north-east to High Hartsop Dodd. That doesn’t really have a summit, but there is a cairn at the end of the last flat bit before the steep descent, roughly at NY 394108. I then returned to Little Hart Crag, skirted it to the north, and – mistakenly (see the story below) – climbed up to the High Pike – Dove Crag ridge.

From up there the descent of High Pike and Low Pike is by a clear and obvious route. I ended up bearing left off the main ridge to come down into Scandale at High Sweden Bridge (NY 379068), from which point the route back to Ambleside is unloseable.

Tale of woe: While we were in the Lakes (for walks 1-4) I had begun to think that something like this project was possible, but it was only once I got home that I decided to definitely do it. I’d spent a lot of time thinking about where I’d walk. For a while, something round Grasmere, Easdale or Far Easdale, looked favourite. Don’t remember why I plumped for this walk but felt that going as far as Ambleside was enough, as I still wasn’t sure how arduous a journey it would be, what the connections were like. I realised I needed also to think about how to fit minor fells in, study the map carefully to make sure I wasn’t leaving myself some little peak that would then be awkward to revisit without wasting time and effort.

Red Screes, viewed from Garburn Pass

Red Screes, viewed from Garburn Pass

Why didn’t I go for a walk in August? No time… busy at work and then it’s unfair to leave C with J while he is on holiday. But I saw I had time in September. The first date planned was the 3/4, but the weather was abysmal. But then it clears up. In fact on 9/9/09 it is completely glorious – too much so as it turned out.

I’m on the 0638 out of HB. Ask this other guy waiting for the train if he is going hiking too – he is dressed for it – but he is going to work. The journey is smooth. I get to Windermere station and for what will doubtless not be the last time sneak into Booths to use the bog. I’ve been reading student dissertations etc, on the train and going on the walk with quite a weight strapped on my back. One student gets her final comments written up as I sit on a seat on the Kirkstone Pass road out of Ambleside. Then I’m walking. Feels good to be doing this on a Wednesday.

Red Screes is quite a trudge up the ridge, but the summit is very fine, with its substantial tarn and the incredible drop beneath your feet down to Kirkstone Pass below. I’m up there by 11 and then down to Middle Dodd which crouches in the shadow of  its parent but still has a good view to the north. (Why doesn’t AW include this as a ridge route? Book 1 though – he’s still finding his feet, some of the things he does in it don’t work so well and once he gets to book 2 everything’s much more consistent.)

The traverse over to Scandale Pass is the first downer of the day, perhaps the Project though. Not wanting to hike back up to Red Screes only to come down again I try taking a diagonal course along the level of the land but it’s tough going. However, once I reach the actual path it gets even worse. Although it’s a very fine day – becoming hot in fact – the descent is very slippery and badly eroded. I have a choice between slipping on damp stones or clods of earth sliding away beneath my feet and taking me with them. Not pleasant. I nearly go over several times, and actually do once, sitting down with a jarring crunch and very conscious I have a computer in my backpack – also that a broken leg or even a twisted ankle at this point is really not going to be a benefit to this whole enterprise.

Also I’m becoming conscious of the fact that, stupidly, I have only about a half-pint of water with me. At this stage it’s OK though, I feel I can eke it out.

Glad to reach Scandale Pass. Little Hart Crag’s rocky double summit is above me. There’s someone else up there – he takes a photo, says he’s come up from Hartsop, this is the only point at which our walks coincide. It’s a good pic but I’ll soon be losing it. I go on to High Hartsop Dodd, this one definitely a “bagging” walk as I know I’ll have to retrace my steps, it’s not a natural route unless I was descending to Hartsop. However, I’m glad I went for it, for one reason. Although it takes a couple of attempts to work out which is the actual summit, it’s a highly idyllic spot. The day has become beautiful and I eat my lunch on a carpet of soft vegetation, feeling very peaceful, glad to be getting a knowledge of the real Lake District as opposed to the one I have that is only (literally) on paper. Part of me thinks I should just go back to Scandale Pass at this point and back to Ambleside, but I feel energetic enough to do more and the thought that I should be doing ambitious walks, bagging as many peaks as I can on one day, is tempting me. To my right, above, is Dove Crag, looks a useful target and then I know I can go down half the Fairfield Horseshoe back to A’side. So I set off.

Bad move.

I return to Little Hart Crag with no worries, but as soon as I start the stiff ascent from LHC to the Dove Crag ridge I start to become very aware that I am basically out of water. There’s a beck – not even that really, just rills of water coming down the grass and peaty soil – running down beside me but I’m not sure whether I can drink it. Is it sheep crap which means you have to purify fellside water? I’m very thirsty, but still not thirsty enough that I want to get giardia. But this is becoming a very hard walk. I realise I am starting to feel quite bad in fact. I reach the ridge and there are quite a few people up there, and Dove Crag looks close, but I am suddenly feeling sick and quite dizzy. I push on a bit further, not wanting to stop and simply turn around, there are people behind me and won’t they think I’m being weird? But the truth is that I have become substantially dehydrated. Not for the last time today I think the whole Project is about to go tits-up just as I have properly embarked on it. Not only that, there is now a serious danger that I am going to be sick, and that’ll probably lead to my losing what little water I have in my body and then I’ll pass out and have to be rescued.

Middle Dodd, Little Hart Crag and Red Screes

This picture was taken on walk 23. Red Screes is prominent in the background, with Middle Dodd below it and to the left. In the middle distance is the knobbly summit of Little Hart Crag.

Despite the fact that I am less than 100 feet from the summit of Dove Crag, I stop. The people just behind me look at me strangely for a second but they pass by. I immediately realise I have to go down, right now. I also really badly need some water. Going downhill helps me feel better straight away, and the first hiker I see – a late middle-aged lady – I meekly ask for some water which she provides me, only about half my little bottle though: I don’t want to take all hers, she’ll need it too, it’s now hot, but it’s also not enough to get me down so I’m still having to ration it. Another couple are going down as well and I gradually overtake them then ask them for some more, which the guy dispenses from a container on his back, like Homer Simpson’s beer hat almost. That gets me back to Ambleside. On the way, almost in passing, I tick off High Pike and Low Pike before descending to High Sweden Bridge. It’s about 3.15 and I’ve done the whole round of Scandale.

Just as I arrive back in Ambleside I see the Windermere bus go past and maybe I should have run to get it but again, I did not. Two cheap pints in the White Lion follow, and I look at the pictures, with a bunch of middle-aged Liverpudlian women on one side and the young guys moaning about the lack of job opportunities on the other. Did I leave my camera there? No way of knowing for certain, or of knowing why it happened, but if I did, one of that lot took it; or perhaps they just got it out of my bag while I was sitting there knackered. I saw the Scouse ones later, at the bus station. They ignored me though I did say hello. Perhaps they already had the camera in their luggage. It’s not until Preston station that I realise it’s gone. At that point I’m thinking I’ve just blown the whole Project, the day is ruined, I’m such a fuck up. I’m utterly disgusted with myself.

The drunk Nazi couple on the way home, staggering back from their day in Blackpool, is just the icing on the cake at that point. Would I have provoked them if I’d not been pissed off about the camera? Dunno, but once they got going the whole carriage were bemused. I remember only one specific thing they said, about WW2 having actually been fought against the communists, and I wonder whether she ever did write that letter to the Yorkshire Post as she threatened to do. I am sure they’ll both be very happy together.

Should I go on this walk again because of losing the pictures? Perhaps. But let’s count it for now, I know I have done it. Not really a propitious start though is it?

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2 Responses to “Walk 5: Circuit of Scandale”

  1. A very honest account of something going wrong on the hills. Also useful as I’m considering doing this walk soon.

  2. […] project (the first round of 214, anyway), all was then nearly derailed by the rather disastrous walk 5 on which I got badly dehydrated and for good measure had my camera nicked from my bag in an […]

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